When I embarked on my trip to Amazonas - Brazil, I was looking for deep self-knowledge. I was recently graduated in engineering and I did not enjoy my job, mostly because I did not feel like myself there. So one day I discovered the Worldpackers platform and fell in love with it: everything from the concept to the experiences was so exciting and innovative!
Soon I was interested in an opportunity of working in a children school in Amazonas, however, I felt really scared because it was so new to me. Although I have traveled to many places around the world, it was the first time I would travel all alone and I did not have much experience with kids, besides having no idea about the place.
Still that was exactly what I wanted - adventure and purpose - so I took the courage and went.
I was afraid I would not like the experience, however, from the moment I was in the plane, everything about it felt so right.
I am not saying it was easy, but I do feel that the experiences I had there were so worth living.
Here is the thing when you follow your heart, no matter how crazy it may seem: you won’t regret it.
So here are the 5 biggest lessons I’ve learned with this amazing trip:
1. Little gestures count a lot
When I decided to stay 2 weeks there, I thought that it would be too little time to have a significant impact in the children’s life. However, now when I remember the little things, like their cheerful, amazed faces when they learned something new or were able to accomplish something difficult, like assembling a puzzle, I see that it was meaningful.
I remember a day when a girl came with her cousin and her arm was a little dirty, so I immediately took a paper and cleaned it without much thinking. What really surprised me was the way they stared with so much gratitude in their eyes, it really thrilled me because I didn’t expect or understand that much gratitude for so little.
All the kids there genuinely made me feel important and appreciated and I hope that I made them feel that too.
Maybe two weeks is a few time, but if many volunteers give a little of their time, the kids will always have someone there for them.
2. Empathy is one of the most powerful tools
One day I was in the class and noticed a boy who was causing some trouble. I immediately thought: “every class has that trouble student, how annoying he is”. However, after I got to know his story, it completely changed my mind.
He had a very humble condition and a lot of family issues too and had to deal with all of that being just a kid. Then I realized that I didn’t have the right to judge or be angry with any of the students because they were so brave for just being there in spite of the difficulties.
It made me so much more caring, loving and understanding.
3. Comfort is overrated
One of the most curious facts of this trip is that it was by far the one I had less luxury and was further from my comfort zone, however it was also the one that brought me most sense of fulfillment and purpose.
I was finally feeling myself again. I was able to understand that what truthfully makes a trip worthwhile to me is not how much comfort I have, but the experiences and the people I meet there.
4. Gratitude can change your life
During my stay there, I got an infection in my eye that made me very worried. However, it also made me realize how much I was enjoying the experience, because of how sad I became when thinking of going home earlier.
I remember when my mother called me before the disease happens and she asked if I was liking there and I said I wasn’t sure.
The infection changed my perspective and made it really clear for me that yes, I was liking it a lot.
Fortunately, I got better very fast and didn’t have to come back earlier. Nevertheless, it completely changed the rest of the trip because of the shift in perspective.
I was so grateful for being healthy again that the lack of small comforts, like Wi-Fi and specific foods, didn’t bother me anymore and I saw every experience after that as a gift.
5. You don’t need much money to have big adventures and emotions
That is kind of the point of Worldpackers and that is why it is amazing.
I see my friends spending a lot of money on resorts, cruises and what they are paying for is actually comfort (remember number 3?) and not necessarily adventure and emotion.
In Amazon, I had unique experiences like fishing my own dinner and living for three days in a house apart from civilization without treated water, which meant taking a shower in the river and no toilet bowl. Also I went to a night adventure on the river to look for alligators, however what ended up impressing me the most, rather than the small reptile we encountered, was the starriest sky I’ve ever seen, where I could even stare the Milky Way.
The host Poró, who made it all possible, probably wouldn’t be hired as a guide by any travel agency, because of his lack of study. However he knew the forest and the rivers better than anyone and was an excellent guide through the adventures.
Well, now I know what I was missing back then in my job: purpose, being creative, feeling important and connecting with people in a meaningful way.
I guess I went to this expedition in order to discover myself, still I ended up discovering so much more: about life, happiness, simplicity, perspective.